Some stories just stick with you. This morning, it seems, everything I was reading, or stumbling upon, had to do with death and dying. The first was an article on Robin Williams’ final days. A new book is due out, and this excerpt appeared in Vanity Fair. His talents were far and wide – an excellent actor, and comedian. This article contained those heart-wrenching details, leading up to his suicide.
The next story was also about suicide. This one was assisted. A 104-year-old Australian scientist ended his life in a Swiss Clinic, surrounded by his grandchildren. He was bright and inventive in his prime. But. He made the decision that the quality of his life had declined so greatly, that he would rather not continue. So, at 104, he ended his life.
Two more stories came to the screen in front of me, about dying by one’s own hand. It is strange how this all flows, sometimes. I don’t understand the redundancy of the Universe when things show up this way. I am learning not to ignore these things.
And then, as I mentioned, one of those stories that stick with you. I came across this final piece. It is about a guy named Franz Reichelt. This young man was a pretty good tailor in his day. He was born in Austria, but then he moved to Paris. In 1898. He was only 19 when he made that move. He opened, and created, a successful dressmaking business. It catered to Austrians who were visiting Paris. It looked like Reichelt had found his niche.
But apparently, it wasn’t enough. He had one big dream, and that was to create a working parachute suit. Now, I am not sure how one comes upon their big dreams, such as this one. Was he eating his Fruity Pebbles one morning, on his little Paris porch, and thinking “Dang Franz. The world needs a good parachute suit!” I mean, who the heck was even flying back then? Were they parachuting out of hot air balloons? Blimps? Stilts?
Nonetheless, away he went. Like all parachutes, his idea focused on surface area. The person had to have greater surface area than the pull of gravity on their descent. But his idea, was not to have a canopy overhead, but a flight suit that would do the trick. He rolled up his sleeves and got to work. People started calling him “The Flying Tailor.”
Reichelt started testing it on dummies, and then he tried the suit himself, in small jumps. He was not having much success, truth be told. He even broke his leg on one short jump. But, a company was offering a reward for a superior design in parachutes. Reichelt, thought it would be coolio to publicize his new suit, and let the world know that he was planning to jump off the Eiffel Tower.
The event took place on Sunday, February 4, 1912. There was a crowd. Reporters, photographers, and just plain old people. They watched him climb to his place. Friends and family tried to dissuade him, but up he went. He stood on the ledge for an agonizing 40 seconds, before he found the nerve to jump.
The result was disastrous. Franz’s suit failed to deploy correctly. It then wrapped around him and basically turned him into a torpedo. He plummeted straight down and perished instantly. A man and his dream, crashing to the ground. Literally. (This was also caught on film. — The British Pathé film archive has posted the footage online— if you decide to watch this, note that it includes the moment of impact. [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJvgSXSwNY4 ]
I guess, life can be a mystery. That is all. Maybe the lesson for me is that I’ve never really had some huge lifelong dream. A parachute suit. A Mount Everest. Some big aspiration. That “thing” I want to see come true. Well, except for World Peace, but that is a little out of my hands alone. Anyway. Maybe the Universe is telling me that I should just be glad that my very-simple-brain doesn’t have any big ideas.
Except for the World Peace thing. Which we can work on, one little step at a time. No parachute needed.
Peace be with you.
“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”
― Edgar Allan Poe, Eleonora
“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.”
― Vincent van Gogh
“Ideas come from everything”
― Alfred Hitchcock